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Air Station EOD hosts county, state bomb squads for training

23 Oct 2013 | Cpl. Timothy Norris Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

The Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Explosive Ordnance Disposal team hosted a joint training simulation with the Beaufort County Bomb Squad and members of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division aboard the Air Station, Oct. 8.

The purpose of the training was to ensure all teams could integrate seamlessly when more than one team is needed for an operation and to increase readiness for all involved.

“It’s very effective training,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jesse McGinnis, Air Station EOD officer-in-charge. “Everybody has a slightly different way of doing business. A lot of things are the same, but this training allows us to see how our adjacent bomb squads operate and lets them see how we operate. It greatly enhances safety for everybody.”

The agencies train constantly, but opportunities for all three to train together only happen bi-annually. The training event had high risk situations involving multiple devices and took more than 24 hours to neutralize. The team’s learned what each other’s capabilities are because the training allowed them to pool their resources and draw upon all of their combined experience.

“This training makes a difference for us because we won’t be going in blind,” said Capt. Scott Johnson, Beaufort County tactical operations commander.

“We now know how we all operate,” he said. “So we can respond to a call and be way ahead of the game because we know the resources, equipment, and the people. That is important to us because these operations are time consuming and rely heavily on equipment. You don’t just deal with it in an hour, pack up and leave. So this is a good training day.”

The training also pushed the technicians to their limit because of how realistic it was. Each of the devices had different trigger systems that had to be discovered in order to safely disarm the device.

Dave Keener, owner of Keen Tech LLC, travels the country training EOD team and bomb squad technicians in basic electronics, trigger circuits, advanced electronics, and alarm bypassing techniques for covert operations.

“I have full faith and confidence in them,” Keener said. “They have an incredible set of skills, but they are perishable skills. If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Even with the sophisticated motion detectors, trip wires, alarm systems and other triggers, the teams continually planned and consulted with each other to decide on the best plan of action. Each team had a different array of robots, and other long range gear that allowed them to find, inspect, and safely neutralize each device without putting any lives in danger.

“I have never seen a group of technicians be so methodical and take their time,” Keener said. “A lot of people just attack a problem like ants, approaching from all angles. They are doing reconnaissance work, stepping back, sharing information with the other agencies involved in the exercise and coming up with a logical plan of attack instead of going in like gang busters and hoping for the best.”

Each team took different responsibilities from long and close reconnaissance, interrogation of suspects, planning, and neutralization to effectively complete the training.

“It’s important for all agencies regardless of your discipline to continually operate together to build situational awareness and unit cohesion before bad things happen,” McGinnis said.

When the call comes that requires any or all of the agencies to work together and neutralize a threat, the leg-work of learning how they can work together or what skills each team has will not be a problem. Such an edge prepares the teams for mission success when it matters most.